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How to Build an Index in Word 2013

A handy feature in Word 2013 is the ability to build an index. An index is a reference list like a table of contents, but with more detail and at the opposite end of the document. Also, the index is organized by topic or keyword, as opposed to the organizational description a table of contents offers.

Creating an index in Word is a two-step process. The first step is to identify the words or phrases in a document that need to be indexed. The second part involves using those references to automatically build the index for you.

All indexing actions and commands take place under the realm of the References tab, in the Index group.

Select text for the index

To flag a bit of text for inclusion in the index, follow these steps:

  1. Select the text you want to reference in the index.

    The text can be a word or phrase or any old bit of text. Mark that text as a block.

  2. In the Index group on the References tab, click the Mark Entry button.

    The Mark Index Entry dialog box appears. The text you selected in your document appears in the Main Entry box.

  3. Type a subentry in the Mark Index Entry dialog box (optional).

    The subentry further clarifies the main entry. The subentry is especially useful when the main entry is a broad topic.

  4. Click either the Mark button or the Mark All button.

    Use the Mark button when you want to mark only instances that you think will most benefit the reader. Use the Mark All button to seek out and flag all instances of the text in your document, to create an index entry for every single one.

    When you mark an index entry, Word activates the Show/Hide command, where characters such as spaces, paragraph marks, and tabs appear in your document. Don’t let it freak you out. Step 7 tells you how to turn that thing off.

  5. Continue scrolling your document and looking for stuff to put into the index.

    The Mark Index Entry dialog box stays open, allowing you to continue to create your index: Simply select text in the document and then click the Mark Index Entry dialog box. The selected text appears in the Main Entry box. Click the Mark or Mark All button to continue building the index.

  6. Click the Close button when you’re done.

    The Mark Index Entry dialog box disappears.

  7. Press Ctrl+Shift+8 to cancel the Show/Hide command.

    Use the 8 key on the keyboard, not on the numeric keypad.

Create the index

After marking bits and pieces of text for inclusion in the index, the next step is to create the index. Do this:

  1. Position the insertion pointer where you want the index to appear.

    If you want the index to start on a new page, create a new page in Word. You should put the index at the end of your document, which is what the reader expects.

  2. Choose the Insert Index button from the Index group on the References tab.

    The Index dialog box appears. Here are some recommendations:

    • The Print Preview window is misleading. It shows how your index will look but doesn’t use your actual index contents.

    • Use the Formats drop-down list to select a style for your index. Just about any choice from this list is better than the From Template example.

    • The Columns setting tells Word how many columns wide to make the index. Note that two columns is the standard, or you can choose one column, which looks better on the page, especially for shorter documents.

    • You can use the Right Align Page Numbers option.

  3. Click the OK button to insert the index into your document.

Review your index. Do it now. Press Ctrl+Z to undo if you dislike the layout. Otherwise, you’re done.

Obviously, the index needs to be updated when you go back and change your document. To update a document's index, click the mouse on the index. Then choose the Update Index command button from the Index group. Instantly, Word updates the index to reference any new page numbers and include new marked index entries.

  • Feel free to add a heading for the index because Word doesn't do it for you.

  • Word places the index into its own document section by using continuous section breaks.

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